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Aleta Karstad

AFC Conservation Artist of the Month for August, 2007

Aleta's mission is to teach people to love the land and its inhabitants.  Aleta is an Associate of the Canadian Biodiversity Institute, and an advisory member of the Grenville Land Stewardship Council. 
 
Aleta and her husband, Fred Schueler, describe their life's work as natural history exploration (by collecting specimens and data that document the distribution and abundance of species), interpretation (through popular books and workshops in methods of illustrated journal keeping), illustration (primarily in ink and watercolour), & analysis (of distribution, abundance, and geographic variation of organisms). In the past, the species they focused on were predominantly Amphibians and reptiles, but recently they have begun to pay more attention to Mollusks and the subtly lovely Unionid mussels.
 
After a couple of decades when their "work" focused on explaration across Canada in the preparation of popular books, and collecting for the Canadian National Museum of Natural Sciences, in 1993 they began to call themselves the Biological Checklist of the Kemptville Creek Drainage Basin, hoping to create a database that would contain records of all organisms in the drainage basin, based on information computerized by governments, museums, & other inventory-compilers, naturalists' field notes, and the scientific literature. In 1997 they initiated the founding of the Eastern Ontario Biodiversity Museum to provide a home for the orphaned natural history collections of Carleton University, and in August 2002, opened the Bishops Mills Natural History Centre to further accommodate natural history collections and provide space for all of their endeavours in research, curation, art, and education.
 
They also have prepared a special tool for naturalists -The Nature Journal, which is a system of equipment, pages, and instruction intended for the use and training of record-keeping naturalists of all ages and levels of experience. Each kit includes: a seven-ring binder, permanent pigment felt tip pen, one page finder/ruler, one 42 page handbook and lots more.
 
Born in Guelph, Ontario in 1951, Aleta learned her love of nature through helping her wildlife pathologist father, Lars Karstad, with travels and field work.   After the three-year Fine Arts course at Central Technical School, Toronto, where she studied watercolour under Doris McCarthy, she began work in biological illustration at the National Museum of Canada. She has been a resident of Bishops Mills since 1978, and with her husband Fred and daughter Jennifer, have been very involved in recording local natural history. Aleta's books (Canadian Nature Notebook (1979), Wild Seasons Daybook (1985), North Moresby Wilderness (1990) and A Place to Walk (1995)) have been drawn from her illustrated natural history journals, and since 1995 she has been teaching her method of combining drawings, watercolours, and lettering, on archival-quality materials to make a permanent record of a place and time.  She prefers to paint outdoors, to see and feel the depth and movement and the quality of time and place that she tries to communicate through her art. Aleta's work as an artist and naturalist have come together in the composition of her illustrated journals.  The careful study required for a drawing of a natural object, and the reflection that must preceed a verbal description of it, bring one closer to the natural world than more superficial methods. Her concern for the details she observes and for the permanence of records she makes of the places she visits, have led to an original journal format combining drawings, watercolours, lettering, and design in archival-quality materials.  Like many carefully thought-out individual techniques, this has proven useable by others, both experienced artists and novices of all ages.  Since 1995 she has been teaching groups of children and adults that, even if they think they cannot draw or write effectively, the elements of the

Previous Conservation Artists of the Month

(October, 2017)
(September, 2017)
(August, 2017)
(July, 2017)
(June, 2017)
(May, 2017)
(April, 2017)
(March, 2017)
(February, 2017)
(January, 2017)
(December, 2016)
(November, 2016)
(October, 2016)
(September, 2016)
(August, 2016)
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